Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday Finds – July 26, 2013

This week at TLT:

This week’s Sunday Reflections discusses the presence of violence in YA and why it’s important.

We have book reviews of:

Heather and Karen took a group of teens to the Simon Teen Tastemakers Event at ALA and offer ideas for reproducing the event for a teen program at your library.
Karen asked us to talk about the casual perpetuation of street harassment culture.
Karen discusses how YA literature addresses the issue of abortion. And Christie adds some important thoughts on the issue. We also have a list of 5 YA titles that address the topic to some degree, with additional suggestions in the comments.
Robin posted about her experience working with youth who live in poverty. Karen added a list of fantastic titles that depict teens living in poverty.

Commiserate with Heather in the comments section of her post on Program Fails.

Previously on TLT:
We reviewed Timepiece by Myra McEntire and Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry.
Karen wrote about one of the daily realities for teens who live in poverty – going to bed hungry.
Around the web:
There is an important article by Jen Schradie over at The Society Pages on The 7 Myths of the Digital Divide.

You can read an excerpt of The Fall of Five, the next in the I Am Four series by Pittacus Lore at EW. 

There is also a cover reveal and excerpt of Enders, the sequel to Starters by Lissa Price over at EW.

YPULSE has an interesting look at why the show Catfish on MTV matters

What are you guys talking about this week?  Share with us in the comments.

VOYA Magazine released their Teen Pop-Culture Quiz #40.  How well do you know teen pop culture?  Take the quiz.

Take 5: Reproductive Rights in YA Lit

Today Christie and I are talking about Reproductive Rights and Abortion in YA literature.  Here is a list of 5 books where teens acknowledge that abortion exists in their world.  Some of them consider it and decide it is not the right option for them, and others do make the choice to terminate their pregnancy.  It is important that a wide variety of discussions and choices and reactions be represented because it reflects the real world, the world teens are living in and allows them to make more informed opinions and choices because it helps them develop a more complete picture.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

“You can’t just plan a moment when things get back on track, just as you can’t plan the moment you lose your way in the first place.” 

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she’s carrying his baby, she’s devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it’ll never break–because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever. (Goodreads)

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

“I stretch my fingers across my belly and glide my hand back and forth, waving softly. Sometimes I think I feel a hand reaching out for mine. Or it could be a foot, kicking my hand away. I wish I could tell the difference.” 

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their “one-time thing” is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind. (Goodreads)

Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

 “A lot of life is just surviving what happens.” 

Scarlett Hughes is overly involved in the lives of everyone around her, and exceptionally interested in the habits of her neighbors. But Scarlett is thrust solidly into her own life when her sister, Juliet, returns home from school—pregnant and surprisingly married to a sweet, handsome man whom she seems to have no interest in, but who is hopelessly in love with her. Forced to take a look inward for the first time, Scarlett discovers the necessity of dreams, as well as the necessity of facing reality and speaking the truth. (Goodreads)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive. (Goodreads)

Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein

 “Words aren’t magic,” Rawe said, “but talking, opening up can be.”
 

There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about. (Goodreads)

Do you know of other titles where the issues are discussed? Share with us in the comments.

Reproductive Rights in YA Lit: Christie’s Take

If you follow me on Twitter, you definitely know where I stand on this issue, and personally I am scared for where this country is headed. I realize that the issue is completely tied up to everyone’s personal beliefs, and I have close friends who fall on both sides of the lines- we just agree to disagree on this subject.

However, I know a lot of people across the country who feel the same way, who were activists before and after Roe vs Wade became law, and fear we’re headed down the same road as before abortion became legal, and access to women’s clinics (whether they perform abortions or not) were available to all. I do feel that the way “pro-life” is marketed is wrong- I feel that my viewpoints should be considered pro-life even though I consider abortion an option- just as I consider birth control an option, and federal and state care after birth options.

I remember the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that Karen writes about, but that wasn’t the first movie I saw that deal with abortion. The first one I saw was the horrible botched abortion in Dirty Dancing, when abortion was illegal. I didn’t understand the whole situation, and I didn’t ask my parents about it (I didn’t see it in theaters, I saw it at a friend’s house a few years later)- instead, I went and researched it at the bigger city library nearby (no way could I go to the library in my small town- would everyone have gossip then, even if they would have had information about the subject). When I understood what was going on, and why it was going on, I thanked the powers that be (fill in whatever God/Goddess/Deity you like) that we (women) didn’t have to go through that now. That was when I decided I was going to be a feminist and an activist- I finally had a title to how I felt. However, I now have the scary feeling we’re headed backwards to that time.



Like Karen, I don’t know of any 11-15 year old ready to be a parent (boy or girl or inbetween), and like Karen, I have worked with teens in that age range who have had to deal with that issue.


In previous work experiences it was usually the girl alone who was having to deal with her parents and the decision as the boy was long gone or denying responsibility (and leading a campaign of slut shaming along with his *new* girlfriend), in my current one it has been more of a mix which I think is due to the culture more than anything else. However, they are still struggling with options, and to have one option taken away means that they are left with two: adoption (which while may be the best case has stigma attached in a lot of cultures) and keeping the baby (which may not be the best case for the child or parent/parents). This is why we have trends in libraries of grandparents as parents collections, and grandparents as parents programming- because adoption was not a viable option in anyone’s mind (for whatever reason) and the baby ended up with grandparents.


16 and Pregnant : MTV


We, as teen service specialists (which I use to encompass all of us who work with teens) are always advocating for books that reflect teen life- because teens turn to YA fiction to find themselves, and to help know that they are not alone. Abortion in YA fiction is a subject that is extremely hard to find, and needs to be written about more, in a compassionate way- not just in a sentence or two that it was a consideration before moving on to other options. When we have television shows that glorify and make stars of teen moms acting badly and abusing their kids (yes, I’m looking at you, MTV), and media that can’t honestly deal with the issue except on the margins we need a counterbalance somewhere.

Abortion in YA Lit, Karen’s Take

Young Adult literature tackles a wide variety of dark, heavy and yet all too real and controversial topics.  Drug use, rape, incest, cutting . . . You can find a variety of books that deal with these topics.  But there is one topic that you don’t see mentioned very often in YA lit: Reproductive Rights.  Even more specifically: Abortion.

This piece is not about abortion, but it is about abortion in YA lit.  I will not reveal where I stand on the issue, because my opinion doesn’t matter.  My job is to introduce teens to a wide variety of stories and let them decide for themselves.  And I recognize that it is a very controversial topic tied up in people’s personal religious beliefs, their knowledge of science, their views on women and personhood and so much more.  But there is no denying that it is a very relevant topic that today’s teen can not escape.  The news about abortion and the debate surrounding the issue is everywhere.  People stand outside clinics and statehouses with signs.  And because I believe it is an important issue in our current political climate, one that is not likely to go away, I feel that we owe it to our teens to have current and realistic information available to them so that they too can be an informed part of the discussion.  For many teens, what we decide today will have tremendous impact on their life and choices.  Not always in the distant future, but soon.

Because of the pregnancy illness that I suffered from, I know a handful of women who made the decision to terminate their pregnancies so that they could live another day and raise the children they had already given birth to.  And I have sat with a teen patron in the days after she decided to terminate her pregnancy at 20 weeks.  And I have read the news with horror of the little 11 year old girl in Chile who is waiting to give birth to a child that was fathered by her own father who raped her.  Many have said to the news that this 11 year old is ready and prepared to become a mother; but not just a mother, a mother to a child born to her from a father that has raped her.  I look over to my 11 year old daughter as I think about this and my heart aches for her.  I have spent 20 years working with 11 year olds and I can assure you that not a single one of them is prepared to become a mother.

I sometimes read books about teenage pregnancy and wonder where the discussion of abortion is.  Not even a teen deciding to have an abortion, but a teen who is pregnant taking a moment to even consider it, for a moment, as an option.  As a teen, my first knowledge of abortion came not from a book, but from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  I remember clearly that character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh going in to a clinic and ending her pregnancy alone, without her parents knowledge, without the boy who impregnated her.  It was her older brother who supported her through the experience.  This is an issue for teens, it always has been, and it may be an issue that they will deal with only with one another.  I was aware of abortion, but it had always been one of those taboo subjects that no one ever talked about except when we were talking politics.

So here is something I didn’t tell you when I reviewed Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein because it hadn’t been released yet and it was a spoiler: Cassie has had an abortion.  As she lay at camp writing diary entries to herself she sometimes punches herself in the stomach.  This is because she has had an abortion and she is wrestling with how she feels about this fact afterwards.  It is a bold decision, telling the story of a girl who has made a choice that is so very controversial in our country.  And yet, it is a story that needs to be told because our teens sometimes make this choice and those teens deserve to have their stories told just as much as we advocate for diversity in young adult literature.  Diversity can mean diversity in choices.  As a reader, we don’t even have to agree with the choice.  That is not why we read.  No, we read to better understand the many different lives that occur in and around us in the vast, wide world we live in.

Cassie’s reaction to her abortion is interesting and complex.  She obviously feels tremendous confusion and sometimes guilt over the choices she has made.  And as a woman, I can’t help but think: of course she does.  She lives in a world that tells her everyday that people who choose abortions are murderers.  Even if she didn’t think this were true, it makes sense on some level that a teen who is still trying to figure out who they are and what they believe would have periods of times where she questioned the very real decisions that she made.  Abortion is not a black and white issue in the world we live, so it makes sense that a contingent of our teens wouldn’t see it as a black and white issue either.  The complexity of emotions that she has in response to her abortion mirrors the complexity of emotions we feel in the general public regarding the topic.

But Cassie’s experience with abortion is just that – one experience of abortion.  The ALAN Review wrote a thoughtful look at abortion in YA literature back in 1995, but at a time when our culture is grappling with this issue loudly and often, it seems that our YA lit is failing to reflect the current zeitgeist.  And this literature needs to reflect the variety of true experiences that teens have had with abortion.  Some, like the 14-year-old I used to work with, will sigh a breath of relief.  Others, like Cassie, will wreslte with confusion and guilt.  The literature we read doesn’t have to mirror our personal beliefs, it is supposed to open us up to other lives and other stories so that we can walk a moment in another’s pair of shoes and learn about lives and viewpoints that may differ from ours.

Additional Resources:
Adolescent Fiction on Abortion
The Future of Reproductive Rights as Seen in 3 YA Novels
Unwinding the Abortion Debate in Young Adult Literature
Adolescent Fiction on Abortion
Library Thing list of books tagged Abortion
What Does October 15th Mean for Teens?